Championship leader Ott Tänak held a narrow advantage at Corsica linea - Tour de Corse after Friday morning’s opening loop of three speed tests.
Stage info: SS2/3
SS2: Valinco 1, 25.94km
Friday’s longest test starts in Zerubia village on a smooth and narrow road in the woods. It joins a wider road, which runs through the villages of Cargiacca and Loreto di Tallano in a long twisty downhill section as far as the Acoravo bridge. It then climbs and becomes quicker on a frequently changing surface until the finish at the entry to Arbellara.
SS3: Alta-Rocca 1, 17.37km
The stage starts a few dozen metres from the Caldane bridge. After passing through Chialza on a narrow and twisty road, the test crosses Bisene village, where drivers must beware of damp sections in the woods. After passing through Tirolo, a series of curves on a narrow road leads to the finish just after the spectacular Orone hairpin.
The Estonian topped the standings by 1.3sec from early leader Elfyn Evans as a tightly clustered group of four drivers blanketed by 7.6sec arrived in Porto-Vecchio after a breathless morning in the mountains in the south of the island.
After surviving a near-miss with some cows in the opening test, Tänak was second in the following Valinco special stage before rounding off the morning with fastest in Alta-Rocca.
“It was a good morning, not a very good morning but consistent,” said the Toyota Yaris pilot. “No issues but I believe my rhythm can improve. Generally the car is working well, I just need to understand these new stages.”
Evans yielded the lead to Tänak in Valinco, but third in Alta-Rocca kept the Ford Fiesta driver hot on his heels. “I didn’t have a perfect run in the middle stage and gave away a bit to Ott, but otherwise it’s been pretty equal,” he said.
The Welshman was 2.2sec ahead of Thierry Neuville, the Belgian fighting the handling of his Hyundai i20 and playing with the set-up. “The feeling is a little bit better but my pace notes are sometimes too slow sometimes too fast,” he explained.
Team-mate Dani Sordo was 4.1sec back in fourth. The Spaniard dropped behind Neuville in Alta-Rocca as his low start position meant gravel dragged onto the asphalt by those ahead made the roads dirty.
Teemu Suninen was best of the rest in fifth, the Fiesta driver 8.9sec behind Sordo and keeping his pace in check following his early exit from the previous round in Mexico.
Pace notes were a big talking point on the new stages and Jari-Matti Latvala was one of many drivers with work to do. His notes were too cautious and after losing more than 15sec in Valinco, he was sixth.
Esapekka Lappi was seventh in the top Citroën C3, despite a spin in Alta-Rocca. Team-mate Sebastien Ogier held eighth, striving to climb the order after his opening stage error. “I’ve been struggling a lot with the car. We made some changes and now it feels better,” he said.
Kris Meeke was ninth, the Briton recovering from his opening stage time loss to win Valinco and claim second in Alta-Rocca. WRC 2 leader Eric Camilli completed the leaderboard.
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